Why Did Jesus Come?
Mark 2:1 – 28
Why did Jesus Come?
What do you do with something valuable?
In October last year, 7 priceless masterpieces, including works by Picasso, Monet and Matisse, were stolen from a Dutch art gallery.
One of the men allegedly involved in the heist, a Romanian, hid the paintings in his house, and, as police closed in, his mother Olga reasoned, that there could be no prosecution for her son, if there were no paintings, so she burnt all 7 masterpieces, in the wood-burning stove she used to heat her sauna.
7 paintings, worth perhaps, 300 million dollars, gone up in smoke.
What do you do, when something very valuable, is right in front of you?
How do you respond when you’re confronted with something priceless?
That’s a question that perhaps Olga should have thought about a little bit more.
But it’s the question presented to us in chapter 2 of Mark’s gospel.
Jesus comes, offering something, something of great value, and people respond in vastly different ways.
Even to the point of trying to destroy the thing of great value right in front of them.
Let’s have a look at some of these responses to Jesus, as he teaches and demonstrates why he has come into the world.
Jesus came to forgive sins 1 - 12
This first episode, how not to impress your landlord, pick it up with me from verse 3, Some men came, bringing to Jesus a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.
It’s a startling account, isn’t it, yet we need to make sure we’re not distracted from Mark’s main point, by the impromptu home renovations.
It’s not the hole in the roof,
It’s not even the amazing instantaneous healing that Mark particularly wants to draw our attention to,
But the fact that Jesus demonstrates his ability and authority to forgive sin.
As usual, in Mark’s gospel, the crowds are interested in Jesus, but somewhat non-committal, and they actually make it more difficult for people who do come to Jesus in faith, to get to him.
And so the faith of these men and their paralysed friend is really highlighted in this episode.
Jesus, verse 5, saw their faith, they’re responding to Jesus in the way that people ought to respond to Jesus, believing that he offers something valuable, and they back up that belief with action.
And yet, what Jesus says and does, is unexpected, isn’t it?
I think we would expect Jesus, to immediately heal the man. But instead of healing him, Jesus says your sins are forgiven.
Healing is a demonstration of God’s forgiveness
But perhaps it shouldn’t be so unexpected.
Throughout the Old Testament, we see the interwoven-ness, if that’s a word, of sin, and sickness and death.
Our world is broken by sin,
And one of the consequences of that, is sickness, which leads to death.
So right back in the beginning, in Genesis 2, God said to Adam, you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die
Sin, leads to death.
And often in the Old Testament, healing from sickness, or even the reversal of death, are seen to be a visible demonstration of God’s forgiveness.
Not that any one person’s sickness or death is necessarily tied to their individual sin. It might be, we know in some cases it is. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11 about people who have died because of their sin,
But in most cases, the Bible just pictures sickness and death in the world, as the result of sin in the world.
Since we know though, that it wasn’t God’s intention for humans to live in a world plagued by sickness and death,
Healing then, is a work of God’s grace, where he reaches into the world, and drives back some part of the domain of sin and suffering.
It’s God restoring some aspect of his broken creation towards his intention for it.
A small part here, a small part there,
When Jesus offers forgiveness, here in Mark 2, he reminds everyone watching, that physical healing is only half this guy’s problem, and not even half!
What does it take for someone to be healed?
Well, the root cause of that sickness has to be dealt with.
Sin has to be dealt with.
Could Jesus have healed this man without publicly stating that his sins are forgiven?
He did that on lots of other occasions, and he’s able to do that, because of the forgiveness he achieves on the cross.
But here, he ties forgiveness and healing, directly together, because he wants to make a point.
The problem faced by people,
Is not just the effects of a broken world, as painful and frustrating as sickness and death can be,
No the even greater problem faced by people is sin! And until that can be dealt with,
There’s no hope of true healing.
Son, your sins are forgiven, it’s like Jesus is saying to the man, and to his friends, and to the crowd, “Let me remind you what really needs to happen here.
As it happens, both forgiveness and healing, were the signs that people were looking forward to, to let them know that the Messiah, God’s king had arrived,
We got our own version of this, this week, didn’t we? The signs that announce the arrival of a king? Well a future king, in our case!
When you see a wooden frame, placed on easel, at Buckingham Palace, that’s when you know the future king has arrived.
Well, it was the same for God’s people waiting for their king!
When sins are forgiven,
When sickness is healed,
When the frontiers of sin and evil start to get rolled back, well that’s when God’s people would know that their new king had arrived.
That’s what God does!
That’s what God longs for, for us,
For us to be free, from sin, and sickness, and death.
Forgiving sin is God’s work
But not everyone’s happy, with the forcing back of sin’s domain. Look at verse 6, Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
These teachers of the law are furious, at Jesus’ claim to be able to forgive sin. They thought it was blasphemy,
We’ve been praying for one of the girls in our church family, this week, as she’s had major reconstructive surgery on her jaw.
And thank you for your prayers, I know Claire’s family appreciate that a lot,
But imagine just as Claire goes under the anaesthetic, she looks up, and instead of the surgeon there, preparing to crack her jaw in multiple places, it’s me, smiling down gleefully at her!
“Don’t worry”!, I say, “I’ve watched all those TV shows, RPA, Gray’s Anatomy, MASH, I’ll do the surgery, It can’t be that hard!”
If the anaesthetic doesn’t knock her out at that point, the sheer terror of me operating on her will!
Actually do you remember it happened? There was a teenager passing himself off as a surgeon in our hospitals. And there was an outcry!
You can’t perform surgery without all the right training,
You need accreditation,
You need to have the authority to do that.
That’s the reaction of the teachers of the law in verses 6 and 7. He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
And the thing is, they were right.
Only God can forgive sins.
To say that someone else can do that, is to create a rival God.
Not even the Messiah was expected to personally forgive sins.
There’s a very famous piece of Jewish writing, from the 1st or 2nd Century BC, it’s called the Psalms of Solomon, and it’s one of our primary sources outside the Bible, for finding out what the average Jewish person expected the Messiah to be like.
They thought the Messiah would destroy God’s enemies,
He’s expected, actually, to be sinless, himself
But the one thing they didn’t expect him to do, was forgive sin.
Forgiving sin is God’s job.
But can’t we forgive sin?
But let’s just press pause for a moment.
Don’t we forgive other people, when they sin against us?
How can you say only God, can forgive sin?
But the things that I do wrong against you,
Or that you do wrong against me, as hurtful as they might be,
they’re actually symptoms, not the real issue,
They’re symptoms of the sin that is within us, the sin that is our rebellion against God.
You might have had chicken pox as a kid, and had those little red dots all over you,
But of course, the little red dots aren’t actually the cause of the problem, are they?
They itch, they’re uncomfortable, but they’re a symptom of the virus that’s in your body, the red spots aren’t what’s making you sick.
Cover up the red spots, you’re not magically better!
The things that we do wrong, are a symptom of the fact that we have wronged God.
We’ve rejected his pattern for life.
That’s why ultimately, no one can forgive sins except God,
He’s the one we’ve wronged, and rejected.
So for Jesus to say “your sins are forgiven” is what?
It’s Jesus doing God’s job,
He is equating himself with God
Ironically, even though the religious leaders accuse Jesus of blaspheming, in verse 7, if Jesus’ claims about himself are true, it’s the teachers of the law who are blaspheming.
If the Son of Man does have authority on earth to forgive sins, verse 10, and if the teachers of the law refuse to acknowledge that, then they’re the ones who are rejecting God.
They are the ones who have a false picture of God.
That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?, that religious people,
People who are quite confident that they’ve got things right, might have so failed to come to grips with who Jesus is, that they have a false picture of God.
Understanding who Jesus is, and why he’s come, it’s important, isn’t it?
Our picture of God,
Our understanding of who God is and how he acts, depend on it.
Jesus proves he has the authority to forgive
But does Jesus actually have the authority he claims?
I can claim to be God.
I can claim to be able to forgive sins.
I can say “SHANE/TONY, your sins are forgiven”, You can’t tell whether his sins are forgiven or not, can you! He doesn’t sort of start glowing or anything does he?
But Jesus proves he has the authority to forgive, by doing something that can’t be faked. Pick it up with me at verse 9, Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”
It’s one thing to make a claim about yourself, that no one can ever really test.
It’s another thing to make a claim that is instantly and obviously verifiable.
So Jesus says, “So that you know that I have the authority to make the claim that you can’t test, let me show you that I have authority over these related issues of sickness and sin, and make a claim you can test.”
Jesus’ authority isn’t just limited to the invisible signs of God’s kingdom, his authority extends to the visible signs as well.
So he said to the man, verse 11 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home. He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all.
Little wonder, verse 12, This amazed everyone and they praised God
The authority to forgive, and the authority to heal, are the same authority.
And Jesus proves that he possess that authority, and can perform the works of God’s new kingdom!
See, this event is not just a healing.
It is obviously a work of God’s compassion for a man with significant need,
But here is the reminder, that what people need more than anything else, is forgiveness and reconciliation with God.
And here is the wooden easel at the fence of Buckingham palace,
Here is the sign that God’s king has arrived,
And since Jesus demonstrates that he is God, this moment here shows atheism to be a lie.
If Jesus has shown up and demonstrated who God is and what God is like, then agnosticism is intellectually indefensible.
It is possible to know God,
To know what he’s like,
To know how we ought to respond.
Jesus came to bring a scandalous grace 13 - 17
Look at the next little episode with me, let’s start at verse 14, As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth.
“Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
And then Jesus has dinner at Levi’s house, with a whole bunch of tax collectors and “sinners”.
You may know, tax collectors in the ancient Jewish world were despised. They collected taxes and duties on behalf of the Romans, so not only were Jewish tax collectors breaking the Old Testament law by working with Gentiles, they were collecting money for the occupying and oppressing regime of Rome.
Imagine if Australia got invaded by New Zealand, and a few of us started working for the occupying New Zealand government, collecting taxes on their behalf, sending them off across the Tasman, and bleeding us dry!
We wouldn’t think too fondly of those people, would we?!
Because the other thing the tax collectors were known for was corruption. They’d collect the official amount, but they were free to collect, whatever else on top of that, for their own pockets.
The historian Philo, who was a contemporary of Jesus, describes one such tax collector, a man named Capito.
Capito is the collector of the imperial revenues in Judaea, he arrived there a poor man, but has amassed enormous riches of every imaginable description, by plunder and extortion
Tax collectors were excluded from the synagogue,
They were considered unclean,
They couldn’t give evidence in court,
They had virtually no rights,
They were lumped in the category of murderers and robbers.
In our kind of terms, think some combination, of terrorist, paedophile, Nazi sympathiser.
Jesus calls one of these men,
Calls him away from that old life,
And sits down and eats and drinks with a whole bunch of these people who were thought to be far from God,
Excluded from the religious things,
Considered just too bad, beyond God’s reach.
And in eating with these people, Jesus says God’s blessings are available to these people too.
It really was scandalous.
And yet even the language, why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?, suggests that this probably wasn’t an isolated incident.
More like this is the pattern of Jesus’ ministry that Mark wants us to see.
The religious leaders of the day, thought that getting right with God, was all about being deserving.
You were made righteous by what you did:
Study the Torah,
Obey the Law,
And you deserve a welcome by God,
You deserve acceptance into community.
Jesus turns that on its head, doesn’t he?
He calls those, and shares with those, who are most obviously not deserving!
The difference is, they recognise their need,
They know they’re not deserving
We saw in that first section, that healing, although real, and genuine, and great, for the person involved, more broadly, healing is a sign of the forgiveness that Jesus offers.
Here, table fellowship, sitting at a meal with someone, also serves as a symbol of the forgiveness that Jesus offers.
The Messiah, God’s chosen king, sits with “sinners.”
God himself sits with people who are thought to be far from God, and in fact, whose behaviour shows that, on their own, they are far from God,
But God doesn’t wait for them to do something about their situation to get into right relationship with him, God knows they can’t ever do that!
The scandal of grace, is that God welcomes and forgives, those who are so obviously far from him, but who hear his call and respond,
And yet those, who think they are already right with God,
Because of their actions,
Because of the religious efforts,
Where are they in the story?
They’re on the outside looking in, completely unaware, that they are just as lost as the tax collectors,
They are just as far from God, as the tax collectors,
They just refuse to recognise it.
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners”
Who are the people sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, waiting to hear their name called out, so they can go in, and be helped?
If you think you’re healthy, you don’t go to the doctor.
Of course, Jesus’ isn’t saying, “There are some who are healthy, who don’t need a doctor.”
Everybody needs the forgiveness that Jesus brings, but only those who realise their own depravity, how far they are away from God, can receive it.
That righteous there in verse 17, is a little bit ironic. It needs to be translated with “air quotes”!
We could translate it “self-righteous”. The self-righteous don’t welcome Jesus because they don’t think Jesus has anything of value to offer them!
But the whole purpose of Jesus coming into the world, he says, was to call sinners,
Jesus came to pour out God’s grace, specifically on people who don’t deserve it,
Which is exactly what grace is, isn’t it?
This episode here, it’s like a little glimpse into heaven.
This meal, God’s king, sitting with sinful people, anticipates what’s going to happen in eternity, when the Messiah sits down with sinners, in the kingdom of God.
It is for that purpose,
To bring about that end,
To welcome sinful people to that meal, that’s why Jesus came.
Let’s think about the implications of that for a moment.
If you’re a Christian, when Christ called you, what drew him to you?
It wasn’t your goodness.
It was your badness!
It wasn’t your good life, that caught his eye,
It was your depravity, your lostness.
And if you’re not a Christian, but you’re thinking, “Yeah, I’d like to come to Jesus,
I’d like to be welcomed by him,
It’s not your merit that is the point of connection with him, but your failing.
It’s not your good standing, that draws him to you, but your falling.
Jesus came to usher in a new era 18 - 22
Jesus’ ministry consistently confounded the religious leaders of his day, because they didn’t understand God’s plans and purposes and how they were fulfilled in him.
They were so caught up in the marks and habits of the old era of God’s dealings with his people, that they didn’t recognise that Jesus came to usher in a completely new era of relationship between God and people.
See verse 18, Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
There was only one fast required of Israel in the Old Testament;, once a year, on the Day of Atonement.
But over time religious tradition built up, with some people fasting up to twice a week, trying to show how serious they were about their faith.
And generally, although fasting in Old Testament times tended to be associated with mourning, MOURNING, by the time of Jesus it was particularly connected with trying to hasten the arrival of the Messiah.
If you didn’t fast, people thought you didn’t care about whether the Messiah turned up or not!
It was almost treason for a Jew not to fast. “Don’t you care about God restoring our nation?!”
But Jesus’ response to the question, only ups the ante of the question about his identity.
“How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.
Obviously Jesus is the bridegroom,
His disciples are the guests of the bridegroom
And yet this imagery is symbolism that Yahweh, the God of Israel had used to describe himself, in relationship to his people.
Once again Jesus takes language that was known by his hearers to refer to God, and applies it to himself.
But he doesn’t stop there.
Jesus says that his coming ushers in a new era of God’s relationship with his people.
Most of us have probably been to a few wedding receptions.
You don’t turn up to a wedding reception, and then get told “There’s no food tonight, you’re all fasting.”
Jesus says, “You can’t expect people to fast when the bridegroom is with them.”
There might be moments when it’s appropriate to mourn, appropriate to fast.
The shadow of the cross falls right across verse 20 when the bridegroom will be taken from them.
But the arrival of Jesus and the nearness of the kingdom of God that he ushers in, that’s no time for fasting.
You know the expression – “You are what you eat”! A somewhat depressing expression, for some of us, perhaps, if I am what I eat!
But Jesus would say, “You can tell who people think I am, by what they eat.”
If the disciples of John, and the Pharisees, understand who Jesus is, well then they’ll eat!
They won’t fast.
If their fasting is a sign of waiting for the Messiah,
And they’re still fasting, it means they don’t think the Messiah has come!
As one scholar said, their non-compliance with the party, attests to their non-acceptance of his person.
These people who are fasting, they’re not just party-poopers, you know that grumpy old neighbour you had as a teenager, always yelling over the fence, telling you to turn your music down,
Their refusal to join the party is a rejection of a person.
This is like a guest in the front row of a wedding, looking at the groom at the front of the church and yelling out, “What are you doing here?!
This isn’t your wedding!
She’s supposed to be marrying someone else?!”
That’s a personal insult and rejection of who the groom is, isn’t it?
Same thing here.
Once again, we get a symbol, of the salvation that comes to us in Jesus.
The symbol of a wedding.
And this symbol says, the way to God is not through religious practices,
And keeping religious rules,
Not by making sure everyone sees how committed you are to God’s work,
But by joyful association with Jesus.
By saying “I’m with him”
So the rescue and forgiveness that Jesus offers, can be symbolised by healing, and the pushing back of the effects of sin,
It can be represented by a meal, where Jesus sits with sinners, just like he will forever in heaven,
And it can be represented by a wedding, a time of celebration and rejoicing, because the long awaited moment has come.
But Jesus also gives two mini parables, that give us a little more of an insight into what this new era is like.
Verse 21, “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”
What’s the relationship between this new era ushered in by Jesus and what’s gone before?
Well, both parables make the same point.
The new era is incompatible with the old.
The relationship with God that Jesus makes possible, is incompatible with the ways of relating to God under the old covenant.
The Judaism of the Old Testament, is an old garment, an old wineskin, what Jesus brings can’t be just patched onto it, or poured into it.
The new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse.
the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined.
The garment, the wineskin, the Old Covenant relationship and practices, they’re not inherently evil, or wrong,
But their time has passed, and something new has come. And that which is new, can’t just be absorbed into the existing structures,
Jesus isn’t an attachment that can just be added on to existing religious practices or habits.
He can’t be added to, poured in to existing ways of thinking.
And notice that in the case of the wineskins, trying to combine the new era of Jesus with the old religious structures, when the wineskins burst the new wine is ruined,
Trying to combine them means you don’t even end up with what Jesus offers.
Of course, Jesus was speaking specifically about how the old wineskin, the old garment of Old Covenant Judaism couldn’t contain the message and hope and life that he brought.
But I think the parallel extends to whatever religious background we have,
Whatever thoughts about what counts before God,
Whatever conclusions we’ve reached apart from Jesus, about how we can be right with God, and what a relationship with God looks like.
Jesus can’t be just tacked on, to any of that.
Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross can’t be just added on to the Old Testment sacrificial system,
And his call to whole-hearted obedience and discipleship, can’t just be slotted in to our existing ways of life and patterns of behaviour.
It’s all, or nothing.
See the question isn’t, can you find some room for Jesus, in your life?,
In your religious framework,
Can you carve out some space for Jesus?
The question Jesus puts before people is, “Will you give up everything, to join in the celebration of the arrival of God’s king?
Will you become an entirely new vessel, for the work of God?